Lt. Ray Dixon of the Fort Mill Police Department wanted to build a better relationship between local law enforcement and residents of the Paradise community.
Dixon, the department's crime prevention officer, figured one of the best ways to build friendships is by breaking bread. He enlisted his fellow officers, members of the Fort Mill Fire Department, the rescue squad and other volunteers to organize the first Barbecue in Paradise, held last Saturday at the Steele Street Park. Mayor Danny Funderburk was also on hand for the party.
"We are here for them, not against them," Dixon said, referring to residents of the predominantly black community. "I like to be proactive and create a team with the residents."
Dixon said the event was a public-private partnership that was made possible in part by donations.
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"We could not have had such a good day without the generosity of donors like US Food, [the] Farm Bureau, Carolina Vision Center, A Cool Breeze Entertainment, Bi-Lo, Food Lion, Harris Teeter and Sam's Club. We plan to do this again next year."
The Fire Department grilled lunch while residents danced, played in the water park, and enjoyed visiting with the city staff, volunteers and each other.
"I have lived here since 1978 and this is something I am enjoying," Tracy Armstrong said.
Daniel Watts explained that he has lived in the community for 71 years and has some of his children, grandchildren and a great-grandchild living in the Paradise Community. "This was great for the kids and old folks like me" said Watts. "I am glad that the police are here like this."
Johnnie Murdock, a lifelong resident, said felt the afternoon bridged some of the gaps with the community and the police.
"I appreciate the mayor and the city people coming out here today" Murdock said.
Anyone interested in helping out with other volunteers efforts Dixon is organizing can call him at 547-2022 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.